Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Classical Musician:Is This a Viable Identity?

Not so long ago, having still not recovered from the trauma of hand surgery, I hesitated to have business cards printed on which I would be identified as "Pianist."   Now that I am back to playing, and with greater wonderment than ever, I realize that I am a pianist.  But what does that mean to anyone else?

I am interested in music composed for the piano when it was a new invention, i.e., principally music of the late 18th through 19th centuries, for the piano underwent multiple inventions as notes were added, improvements made in its mechanical design, and the tuning changed.  Of what relevance is that in this era of easy-come-flip-the-dial "music?"

Even though my students know what it feels like to listen as they play -- a now-eminent pianist once remarked on hearing a tape of one child that he "could hear her listening"  -- quite a compliment! -- and even though they listen to one another with the most focused attentiveness, they are ill-at-ease when it comes to listening to me play a recital. 

Surely the reasons for this are extremely complex and I cannot pretend to understand what is happening from their point of view, nor do I expect them to articulate as much.

Because I prefer to think of myself as a listener among listeners I am very much enjoying playing in my home on my piano for small groups of people whose conversation about the music is increasingly revelatory about the viability of my life focus.